Monday, December 28, 2009

A (tough) Year to Remember

This has been an especially memorable Christmas for me, mostly because of my little girl. She is five years old and full of wonder and awe over Santa and the deluge of presents and Christmas cheer he brings. Much of the fatigue and humdrum that I have endured as an adult through recent holiday seasons past is almost nowhere to be found, in the face of Natalie's innocent joy.

I've been hugging her extra tight of late - holding on to my little girl fiercely with a mixture of overwhelming love and of the equally powerful fear of ever losing her.

This is something that every parent endures on a daily basis. The mind races with unspeakable imaginings of what could happen. But at Christmastime, the fearful flights of my imagination seem to occur at an alarming rate.

This year has not been an easy one - I lost an old friend who was a police officer, he died in the line of duty at the hands of a mad man. I lost a dear man who was the spiritual leader of my company and a beacon of light in my life. He left this earth suddenly and without warning.

And on September 30th I lost someone who I had never met, yet her passing has left a hole in my soul. This is by far the most crushing loss I've ever had to bear in my life so far - and yet I know I don't feel 1/1000000th of the agony that her family does.

The best man at my wedding has a four year old niece who is now with the angels. She fell into her family's swimming pool. There was a fence. Yet somehow she got in, and in an instant it was over.

I never met this little girl, nor her father or three brothers. I probably haven't seen her mother in 15 years. But I think of them all every single day.

I tell everyone I know with small children what happened. I know very few details of the event, and I don't really need to. The point of the story isn't to depress people or to make them fearful, but to make them aware that those we love most can disappear suddenly - and we need to cherish them with all of our hearts every single day.

When I look at my little girl sometimes, I'm overwhelmed at the thought of losing her. My mind races and I literally shake in my shoes. My wife and I have cried ourselves to sleep more than once over the thought of what happened on that fateful day.

But then I turn to my faith - my belief that there is a power greater than all of us who has a plan beyond our comprehension, and I am comforted.

This little girl, who was only here for an instant, has already touched so many more lives than her parents will probably ever know. Every single person that I've shared this story with has been affected, deeply. From the owner of my company to random lighting techs and associate producers. The freelance teleprompter guy who has a 3 year old. The producer of the Daytime Emmy's who has a toddler son. All of them nearly moved to tears, quiet and contemplative. I know they will hug their kids extra hard and love them even more than they thought possible.

Margareta was her name. And she was a very real angel, sent here for a very real purpose. She was put on this earth to touch us profoundly and to teach us just how precious life is.

And I have no doubt that there are many other lessons she imparted as well. For me personally, the most powerful gift she has given me is to rejuvenate my relationship with God.

It is through God that I find comfort in the arms of my little one. She's about the same age as Margareta and no doubt just as sweet and precocious. This is probably why this event has been so tough on my wife and I. Every little thought and detail (real and imagined) that enters our heads about what happened, we can imagine it so easily happening to Natalie. I hold her impossibly tight, close my eyes and pray to God that she stays safe and happy. But with the anguish in my heart that Margareta's passing has brought, she has also brought me closer to the big man (or woman) upstairs - and in doing so has helped melt some of the adult hardness around my heart.

I recognize, as with Margareta, that Natalie is here on God's time. As are we all of course - but children, especially little children, are living breathing angels among us. Both Margareta and Natalie make it easier for me to let go of my adult cynicism and to recognize just how small I am in the face of my maker. As I turn the corner in my own mortality and recognize that in all likelihood I have fewer years ahead of me than behind me, I see that really - life is so precious and fleeting that every day is truly a gift.

I hope and pray that Natalie has a long and full life ahead of her, that she will touch people's lives profoundly as a fiesty teenager, a passionate young woman, a mellowed but still joyful middle aged go-getter and as a contented elderly sage of wisdom. But it is not up to her, nor me. She is on a mission, as are we all - to try and be the best we can be, to face every day with love and wonder in our hearts, to let go of fear and jaded disdain, to embrace the unknown and recognize that we have no control over our fate - only control of how much love we bring to bear on those around us.

This is the lesson that Margareta has taught me and I will be forever grateful to her for it.

I am overwhelmed with sadness and love for Margareta's entire family, and for anyone who ever had the gift of meeting her in person. I cannot begin to comprehend the anguish that they feel and that they will never fully recover from.

But I hope they find some small comfort in just how far and wide the love of this little girl has already spread, and will continue to spread, as ever expanding ripples in water - touching the hearts and minds of people who never even met her in a truly beautiful and profound way.

Peace and love to all of you this holiday season, and the very happiest of new years.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Country first.

I refuse to condemn our president for his long delayed and potentially inadequate troop surge in Afghanistan.

It's easy to look at his decision, a long time coming - nearly 9 months since his General's request for a minimum of 40,000 troops, as one directed more at appeasing his moderate constituents than towards winning the war. Obama's strategy will surely infuriate those on the left end of the spectrum, Michael Moore already has a ridiculous letter of condemnation up on his website, and those on the right side as well.

Speaking as a considerably right of center hawk, when it comes to our military and what our role should be in the war on terror, I can tell you that there is a lot that is troubling here.

Anything less than a whole hearted pursuit of total victory in Afghanistan I fear is guaranteed to fail.

We cannot sacrifice the lives of our soldiers with a plan that includes an exit date. Nor can we second guess the most qualified people on the planet, that would be the strategic minds and operational commanders of the US military, as to how to best kill al qaeda and the taliban. These two inescapable facts I fear, combined with the historical truism of Afghanistan as a graveyard of empires and a cesspool of corruption, may have already sealed our fate.

It very well might be possible that this war is already lost.

But I'll be God damned if I am going to treat the 44th president the way his far left supporters treated the 43rd.

I may disagree with Obama's approach - which smacks of fulfilling a campaign promise rather than fighting a war that we must win, but I will from this moment on, put my fears into the far back of my mind, and concentrate on positive hopes and prayers for the outcome of this - the most important conflict of our time.

Obama has said from the beginning that he supports killing terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I respect him for that, and I wholeheartedly agree.

Obama has said he will finish the job - while also acknowledging that the Afghans themselves must begin to take responsibility for their own peace and prosperity. I can get on board with this.

I also have a healthy respect for history, and I see that Obama is following in the footsteps of someone who got it right.

Same exact secretary of defense, same exact anti-insurgency plan of battle.

From comes an unintentionally brilliant series of side by side quotes.

Obama: "We Did Not Ask for This Fight"
Bush: "We Did Not Seek This Conflict"

Obama: "New Attacks are Being Plotted as I Speak"
Bush: "At This Moment ... Terrorists are Planning New Attacks"

Obama: "Our Cause is Just, Our Resolve Unwavering"
Bush: "Our Cause is Just, Our Coalition [is] Determined"

Obama: "This Is No Idle Danger, No Hypothetical Threat"
Bush: "The Enemies of Freedom Are Not Idle"

Obama: "We Have No Interest in Occupying Your Country"
Bush: "I Wouldn't Be Happy if I Were Occupied Either"

Who knew that Obama and Bush were two of a kind? Honestly, in a weird way, I'm relieved. Both men have been charged with protecting the free world, both men have risen to the challenge.

At this point it's obvious to me that the one topic that no one, especially not the liberal press, wants to mention is Iraq. Like it or not, believe it or not, we are leaving that country better than we found it with the day to day violence an ever fading memory.

Facts are facts, and no amount of anti-Bush vitriol can change hard numbers. Casualties, both civilian and military, right now are microscopic in comparison to the streets of Detroit or Washington DC.

Number of US Military killed in Iraq in November - 11.

Number of COMBAT related deaths of US Military killed in Iraq in November 2009 - 1.

That's right. This is NOT a typo. This is the biggest story you'll never read about. 1 US soldier lost his life in combat in Iraq last month. The rest were vehicle accidents.

Rant and rave all you like about the horrible costs of this war - I can't disagree with you. But face the inevitable - right here, right now, we are not losing in Iraq.

There is an argument to be made, though you may disagree, that we have already won.

Truly, I believe in my heart that thanks in large part to the convictions of George W. Bush, a man whom I never voted for, nor agreed with on many issues, we have achieved enough success in the region to declare victory and go home.

He was my president and I KNOW he put his country FIRST.

I would be honored to shake his hand.

Those who place the love of their country second to their political convictions will attempt to rewrite history and bring dishonor to Bush, our troops and our country's role in Iraq. But I have faith that intellectual honesty and hard numbers will somehow weather this fog of partisanship, and much like Harry Truman, who was reviled when he left office, George W. Bush - at least when it comes to the war on terror, will emerge as a man who got it right as far as conducting and winning the war in Iraq.

Now whether we should have been in Iraq in the first place is an entirely different issue, and one that I am less certain of. I can certainly concede that it might not have been the best idea, nor was it really related to 9/11.

However, seeing as how we hung the Iraqi people out to dry in the first gulf war (watch the movie "Three Kings" for an excellent treatise on this) I am ultimately glad we went back and righted what we did wrong - though the cost in civilian and military casualties does make me wonder sometimes if it truly was worth it. It's not a black and white matter - but evil has been vanquished, at least for now.

In the end, Iraq is not perfect, there are still violent stragglers, but al qaeda has been decimated and Iraq is slowly but surely returning to normal. The withdrawal plan, which was drawn up by Bush and Petraeus (not Obama as many probably have deluded themselves into believing) is underway and is proving not only workable but sustainable.

I have a great faith and hope that the same may some day be said for Afghanistan.

This is a war in which many on the left have said is a "good" war. Though many in congress have conveniently forgotten this, I have faith that our current president actually meant it when he said so. There is, even right now, far more support for our presence in Afghanistan, both from within the US and from international sources, than there ever was for Iraq.

As long as Obama doesn't waiver and wholeheartedly pursues this task, I have to believe he can succeed.

I will support him and our troops. I will pray for total victory and for an end to the drug trade and corruption that seem to have riddled the people that we helped put into power.

I will pray that the lives lost in the coming months will not be in vain.

Obama has done his job; he has decided that Americans WILL die for the protection of liberty and the defense of freedom. I cannot discount nor condemn him for this.

He is my president and I KNOW he will put his country FIRST.

I would be honored to shake his hand.